Surreal moment Brittney Griner and 'Merchant of Death' are exchanged caught on camera

Dominic Smithers

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Surreal moment Brittney Griner and 'Merchant of Death' are exchanged caught on camera

Featured Image Credit: TACC

Brittney Griner has finally been released from prison in Russia.

The WNBA star has been behind bars for 10 months after she was convicted of possession of cannabis earlier this year.

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But now, the US government has managed to broker a release deal, with the 32-year-old being exchanged for a man dubbed 'the merchant of death'.

Footage shared by Russian state media shows Griner walking across the tarmac at an airport, where she is swapped for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Bout, who has always maintained his innocence, is a former Soviet military officer and was serving a 25-year sentence in the US on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Griner was arrested back in February for possession of cannabis, and was sent to a penal colony last month.

Following the news that the athlete's release had finally been brokered, US President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with Griner over the phone.

Speaking from the White House, the 80-year-old said: "She's safe. She's on a plane. She's on her way home.

Griner and Bout were exchanged this week. Credit: TACC
Griner and Bout were exchanged this week. Credit: TACC

"After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along.

"This is a day we've worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release."

However, while Griner was released, fellow US prisoner Paul Whelan remains in a Russian jail.

The US marine has been in custody in Russia for almost four years after he was convicted of espionage charges.

However, Biden said that he was still working on securing his release.

He said: “We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who’s been unjustly detained in Russia for years.”

Speaking to CNN recently, Whelan said he just wanted to go home.

"I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up," he told the outlet.

"I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here."

A US senior administration official said: “This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice between bringing home one particular American – Brittney Griner – or bringing home none."

Topics: News, US News, Russia, Politics, Joe Biden

Dominic Smithers
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